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AIM Qualification and Assessment Group

Are EPA costs too high?

Why does the price of EPA seem quite high in relation to the funding band?

This is a question on the lips of most training providers when they first contact us about EPA. Usually, they are in the middle of negotiating their fees with employers and, with funding bands increasingly squeezed, it’s not a surprising one.

The first thing that it’s important to say is that, like many other EPAOs, AIM Assessment is a not for profit organisation. We work on the basis of covering our operating costs with a small percentage add -on to ensure the sustainability of our business and the enhancement of our service beyond just delivering the EPA. It’s really important to us that we contribute to the growth of apprenticeships and enable our providers and employers to really get to grips with the EPA so they can, in turn, support their apprentices to approach their EPA with confidence.

Why are operating costs so high?

So, the next obvious question, then, is ‘so why are your operating costs so high?’  Well, assessment scheduling and fixed costs aside, our two main costs have to be our independent assessors and the development and maintenance of assessment and guidance materials. We will only appoint assessors who are current industry practitioners and the best ones don’t come cheap. It’s key to our mantra of ‘Assessment with Integrity’, though - if you are an employer who has trained up an apprentice for at least a year and you are happy that they are competent to make contribution to the success of your business you might well ask ‘who is this person, who we don’t know, about to cast judgement in this high stakes assessment?’ You will want to be reassured that our assessor will understand your apprentice’s job role and the context of your business.

Developing assessment materials

Then there’s the cost of developing the assessment materials. Again, industry expertise is the key to creating assessment tasks that work and we pay for the best. We try to begin our journey with a Standard by talking with the Trailblazer group members – if we can join them as they draw up their Standard and Assessment Plan that’s ideal but if we don’t pick up a Standard until it’s published then the interpretation of the Assessment Plan can be quite a challenge. The more so, if it contains a knowledge test – developing and maintaining up-to-date question banks is notoriously complex and expensive.

Oh yes, and that’s without the cost of EQA which is just about to hit us from this November and we have already committed to absorbing this into the price we already charge for the EPA.

Operating at a loss

As IfATE processes have refined over time, we are now quite regularly asked by Trailblazers to supply a quote for the proposed EPA at the point of submission. We are always honest with the projection but that’s not always reflected in the allocated funding band and on some of our Standards, there’s no doubt we have made a loss. Here at AIM, though, we pride ourselves on our increasing reputation as the ‘go to’ EPAO for the creative and cultural industries and weathering this has contributed enormously to our own learning. We readily acknowledge that the shifting landscape of apprenticeships is new and challenging for everyone. What’s making it worthwhile is that the first creative industries apprentices are achieving with aplomb.

So, if when you ask that question about the relatively high cost of EPA and you receive the response ‘it’s complicated’ accompanied by a small sigh, you will know why.

By Karen Hedger New Business Lead (Assessment), Creative & Cultural at AIM

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